Networking for Shy People in Games

The author enjoys a scintillating conversation with a colleague. Cat's name changed for privacy reasons.
The author enjoys a scintillating conversation with a colleague. Cat's name changed for privacy reasons.

In the leadup to Games Week, there’s a lot of imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head, made infinitely worse if you’re shy, introverted or would simply rather extract your own wisdom teeth than talk to strangers. The good news is that you absolutely DON’T need to be a super-confident party monster to effectively get your work out to people.

* Join a games development group online and lurk to see who’s who before jumping in. Don’t just start posting – have a very specific question that you want to ask, so people can best help you. This way, you can contribute as much as you feel comfortable with. Similarly, following people on Twitter can gain you insights and useful connections. This will also give you a pre-introduction to people at meetups – “Hi, I’m Barbara but you probably know me as @ms45”.

* At meetups, find your people – look for the people in your fandom, or who like similar games to you. People are often helpfully wearing a t-shirt or some bling of their fave, and will be delighted to discuss it with you!

* If you can, take a friend – at least you’ll have someone to chat to, which will make you feel more relaxed. If you can’t take a friend, try showing up early – this means the groups are smaller and other people are joining you, rather than you trying to break into a huge crowd.

* Can’t think of anything to say? People like being asked interesting, thought-provoking questions. They want to talk about their game, or any game really, so ask about it and let them talk!

* Fake it til you make it – that means faking confidence, not skills! Lots of people attending games events are completely new to the industry or working in a peripheral area like banking or government. You are entitled to be here.

* It’s been said that you shouldn’t interrupt two people, as they’re likely to be deep in conversation, but three or more is a better bet as their conversation is more open and casual. Also if you hear words like “hummus” you’re probably ok to ask if the carrot sticks are any good.

* It’s ok to go to an event and leave after a short time. This has its risks – deals are often made at after-parties – but the reality is that no-one is going to publish your game or hire you after you’ve met them once, unless the stars are incredibly well-aligned, so remember people’s names, get their business cards and make sure you’re familiar with their work so you can easily chat to them the next time you meet.

* When observing a group of people chatting, laughing and looking like they were born with it, remember they probably know each other, and were once in the same position as you – not knowing anyone in the room and having to breathe into a paper bag.

Merry Gamesmas, everyone!

Further reading:
– Aimed at women, but relevant to everyone: My Top 10 Networking Tips for Shy People
– Good general business advice: Networking for shy people
– Detailed, step by step example of working through a panic attack: Overcoming Panic Attacks